Thursday, August 28, 2008

seeking His presence...

I am often amazed at how the Lord will use us in spite of ourselves. Even in our own lack of attention to detail, He will present Himself.

I was reminded recently of a story one of my students told of an error she had been making in sharing the Gospel.

We had arrived in Huaraz, Peru. A village high in the Andes mountains, where the air was very thin. Anyone who has ever been to Denver...the mile high city...and has experienced shortness of breath, understands what I mean. We were twice that high, and I got out of breath just going to the bathroom.

We were at one of our first ministry sites in Huaraz. The team dispersed to share the Gospel. One of our seasoned young ladies was 'ministry team leader' this day, and was responsible for sharing Christ. She had done this many times before...on many Peru and to other Latin American countries.

As she was nearing the end of her presentation, after having explained who each person in the drama was and who they represented, she told a woman that "Jesus had died for her sin."

She was moving on to her next statement, when the woman interrupted her. "Pecado, not pescado," the woman said.

Puzzled by the interruption, it took her a moment to figure out what was being communicated.

My student had been telling this woman that "Jesus died for her fish," not her sin.

Embarrassed, she tried to continue. While the tint of her face sped from white to red, she realized the woman spoke English, and that was how she knew she had misspoken. They finished their conversation in English.

Needless to say, she never made this mistake again.

However, in spite of not having a full command of their language, the Lord used her willing heart to lead countless people to Himself. Any confusion that may have been caused along the way by the difference between 'fish and sin' was cleared up by the Holy Spirit, who brings understanding to each of us!

We do not have to be perfect. We do not need to be fluent or even good at speaking the language of the culture we happen to be in (even our own).

God takes our obedience and uses it for His glory. We get to learn from our mistakes along the way. What an awesome God we serve!

Remember, Jesus told the man, "Go and sin no more."

It's okay to fish.

Especially for men.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Brad is home, and doing pretty well. He has been fighting off nausea and light headedness. He is on pain medication and is anxious to get back at it. He had his rotator cuff repaired. A hole had somehow worn through. He also had his bicep tacked up as it had begun to sag. I'm not really sure what that means, but am told it is more a sign of age than fitness. I'm sure he will love me for pointing that out...however, I am older, so if his are sagging, my are most certainly drooping.
Thank you for praying for him!


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"working" in the fields of harvest...

I want to ask you to pray for my brother Brad today. He is having surgery on his shoulder as we speak. My sister Lynae came from Virginia to care for him for a few days as he will not be able to function on his own for a while. He is having his shoulder joint mended as a hole had worn through. I don't know exactly what that means, but it gives a level of indication of how hard Brad works at his camp. I appreciate you lifting him up!

When my team arrived from Guayaquil, Ecuador to Tumbes, Peru, we had to wait for a bus to take us to our next city. While in the station, a young man in an expensive, red sweat uniform came over and asked to sit by me.

He was also returning from Guayaquil, but was headed back to Piura, a city I am very familiar with. We spent the next 45 minutes or so getting know each other.

He is a 15 year old power lifter. He has traveled quite a bit in South America, from competition to competition. Apparently, he is very good. He showed me several medals he had earned on his latest trip.

He had been to a competition in NYC at some point in the past, but never really connected with anyone from the US. This was a dream of his. This gave him the courage to come to me to have a conversation.

As surrounded by people his age (from my own team) we were, I found it quite interesting that he was talking to me. I introduced him to other team members, but his focus remained on me.

One of the things we seldom get to do on our summer trips is build lasting relationships with the nationals (other than our translating team). This is not as we want it, but as it must be because we cover so much ground and are generally, always on the move, even within a city.

We still connect with people, and exchange email address to remain connected, but there is a longing within me to be able to really invest myself into many of them. Perhaps one day...

'Moises Castilla' is his name. It was screen printed on his sweat suit, both the top and the bottom, in white ink. The name of his power lifting squad was also there.

He asked me many things. I told him we were there to share the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ with the people of his country. We made plans to try to reconnect in a city we would both be in later in the month. It never happened, and that makes me sad.

He talked about his family and I talked about mine. What he was doing as a 15 year old young man, was far from the norm in his country. He had a coach, but they had gone different ways upon arrival in this city. He was very well spoken, and very respectful. I was amazed at his grace. His age, his passion for talking, and the intelligent way he conducted himself reminded me of another 15 year old. I found myself wondering if this connection was intentional.

As we were preparing to board our bus (his was at a later time) he began to shed his sweat suit. I wondered why, but really didn't give it a second thought.

Then he began to say words I didn't understand as he held his uniform in my direction.

He was giving me his weightlifting warm-ups. He said, "I have always dreamed of having a meaningful conversation with an adult from the USA. You have fulfilled that dream for me, and I want you to have these to remember me by."

I was dumbfounded. I had nothing to give to him as my gear had been stowed on the bus. I think my mouth fell open as I searched for words to articulate my appreciation.

We boarded.

He stood in the bus station as if he were my own son. He found me through the smoked windows and waved. He held that gaze. As the bus began to move, he did too. He cocked his head and maintained his view. He walked as we pulled forward, and continued to wave.

As we pulled out of the bus yard and turned, he followed until we were out of view, waving.

I confess, I do not understand this encounter. I didn't even get to share the gospel because of his own passion for the spoken word. I did talk about the Lord, but not near the depths I had hoped.

I held out hope that we would speak again in the city where we planned to meet. When we never reconnected, it left me hurting for his Salvation. That has not changed.

His warm-up uniform, which boldly proclaims his name, is on display in one corner of my a reminder to pray for him and his Salvation. A reminder of a joyful encounter with a passionate young man who loved without condition.


Monday, August 25, 2008

oh my...

The weekend was full, with the funeral for Justin, Saturday morning and then leaving immediately for Missouri to share with students for the rest of the day.

The Memorial for Justin was packed with many who had been touched by his life. It was such a Christ exalting service, which was appropriate as he brought glory to God with his life. Students stood to tell of the depth of his care and concern for them.

Justin invested heavily in those he came to know. His expressions of love for these friends was such a blessing to hear about. One young man told a story to give us a picture of who he really was.

While attending Oklahoma State, Justin was driving near campus early one morning and saw a rather disheveled man walking along the road. Few would do this today, but Justin stopped to offer him a ride. The man got in and they began to talk.

Justin discovered the man's wife was stricken with a debilitating disease, they had fallen on hard times, and he was walking to work.

Justin asked the man what he could do to help.

For the next six months, Justin, a college student who was up into the wee hours of the morning studying and sharing with friends, got up every day to take this man to work at 5am. He did this until the man had to move. Justin packed and loaded his house up for him.

Few would invest so deeply in the lives of those they really don't know or care about.

For my family and me, it was an honor to hear them play "I Would Die for You," by MercyMe as the family walked in.

Also, listed in the Memorial leaflet they distributed were a listing of Justin's favorite things (taken directly from his "facebook" page). Among them, were his favorite books. The titles? "Bible," "One Thing You Can't Do in Heaven," and "I Would Die for You."

I cannot begin to express to you how deeply humbling this is.

After the students finished sharing, Justin's dad Mark, rose to say a few words. The service was broadcast on the internet via "First Baptist Tulsa's" website. He spoke directly to those in India who had last served with or been discipled by Justin. Then he addressed the rest of us.

His remarks were laden with Justin's intense desire to serve his Savior. He told a story of a conversation that occurred between Justin and his sister Jennifer.

Jennifer told her big brother that she did not want him getting killed over there in India. His reply was full of love. He conveyed that he had no intention of dying there, but went on to express to her what an honor it would be to die while serving His Jesus!

He is an inspiration to our world!

When the pastor began his message, I needed to leave to head to Missouri.

A youth rally had assembled in Neosho. Several churches were represented. They came together for 6 or 7 hours of fellowship, worship and teaching.

I spoke to them two times. First, I shared with them from Acts 2. I taught them about what it looked like for a church to live and dwell in the awe of God. We looked at what that should look like versus what it does look like. They were challenged to begin to seek the Lord His Word, true fellowship (not the surface stuff), worship, and prayer.

After dinner, we reassembled and I taught them differences between "commitment and surrender." Our world is full of students and adults who commit to many things, and then choose only what "fills them up" in the moment. Many of these commitments never get their attention.

We looked at how a surrendered life has a very different presentation. It portrays Christ, and even seeks to follow after His will at its very core. This infiltrates every other area of life.

At the conclusion of the message, many came to "surrender." The Lord moved over them and they were very responsive. Though no teaching on unity occurred, unity broke out among them as they realized how they had been living life separated from one another and their Savior.

I am most thankful for God's provision this weekend. I appreciate your prayer support, and know the Magers' family will continue to need our prayers for the moments, days, weeks, months and years to come.

He will provide.

He does and always will, if we seek Him first.


Friday, August 22, 2008

My love!!!

Saturday I will be at Justin's Memorial service and then head to Neosho, Missouri to speak to combined youth of area churches. I have the privilege of sharing two messages with them.

Deanna has started back to school. Teaching music is a different classroom experience than many as she sees hundreds of children for maybe fifty minutes a week.
She gets to know most of them over the course of a year.

I cannot imagine trying to memorize hundreds of children's names in very short order, at this time of my life. She does so with few complaints, and many stories of getting names wrong and the laughter of children. For the most part they are forgiving.

Yesterday, she was working with a first grade class. First graders are wide eyed and adorable, but often begin the year, intimidated. They are trying to comprehend a full day of school, different building locations for things like art and music, and new teachers.

Being a first grader can be a tough life.

Yesterday, Deanna asked this class to "get in a circle around the piano." Judging from her account of their reaction, they were at a peak of intimidation. Seeing the concept of a circle in their precious little heads and trying to make that come alive around the piano, was a fete they were not prepared for.

Blank stares from some and near panic from others, betrayed their relative cluelessness of the next step.

A para-professional in the room tried to help by offering that these children were only first graders and didn't know what a circle was, yet.

Really? I seem to remember my children learning such things as toddlers when they played with that little 'shape thing' that every parent has. You know, where you put the star through this hole, the square through that one, etc.? I'm pretty sure shapes are reinforced in most families and then for sure in kindergarten.

I don't think lack of knowledge was the issue.

Many times we find that same issue to be prevalent among our brothers and sisters in Christ. We often react to obedience issues as if we don't know enough. Sometimes we even think we don't. The reality is that we generally do have the knowledge, we're just hesitant to put it into action.

For most it is not an issue of still needing "spiritual milk," but one of needing to learn to follow the Lord's leading. Having head knowledge and refusing to ever transfer that into action is keeping many from experiencing the joy of their salvation.

I believe it was from this disposition that Paul often wrote. How can we as a people continue to show a lack of evidence of true change, when we have been transformed? We have been taught so much, and we do so little to reflect it.

Faith is a word nine and a half months pregnant with this idea.

It is implied that steps must be taken when we are unsure what will happen next. We cannot afford to do nothing, when something is required. We allow fear to paralyze us.

The first graders did the same thing, yesterday. They knew what a circle was, they just weren't sure who was going to take the first step, and were not completely convinced they had the knowledge to take a concept and put it into action.

We have the ability to continue to act like first graders if we choose. Or, one by one, we can begin to take steps of faith to live who Jesus is, and change a culture. It's time to stop reading about it and start living it. It's time to stop being inspired by sermons and doing nothing as a result.

We have little time, yet we are living like we have much. Eternity is a concept for us to experience, but not in terms of how long it takes to become obedient. Rather, it is an idea and an experience.

Most of us learn better by experience. However, we do not have the luxury of waiting for the experience of eternity before our obedience to promptings of the Holy Spirit begin. That is where faith comes in.

Our eternity began when we gave our hearts to Christ. In some respects we have already begun to experience it. However, so many of us are still embracing the world with such a fierce grip that we fail to see how remarkable our lives in Him are. That and the fact that we aren't willing to walk out our obedience cripple the church in our culture.

If we can begin to love one person at a time, and do it selflessly, we will begin to gain understanding of what the Bible is all about. Step out in faith. He will not let you fall. The fear that lingers will be chased away by the sweet flavor of obedience. Then understanding will come for all that we have already learned.

Don't wait. Too many need what we can offer.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Huamachuco view. So many would come to Him here.

Lauren spent last evening in our home preparing a message for tonight. She is speaking at a local church on "Revolution." She will share what that word means to her and what it meant to her brother.

There can be no doubt that her topic will be shaped by the events of this past week. You cannot serve in leadership with a brother, fight against the enemies schemes side by side, and not be inspired by his service and death.

I talked about Justin Magers on Monday. He is expected to be returned to his family today or tomorrow.

He like my son, was a young man who thirsted for the things of God. They both shared a desire, too often found uncommon in our country. They sought out those who knew more about Scripture than they, and would dissect that information, process it, take it to heart, and then share it with others.

Both of these young men understood that time is short. Both poured themselves out for others. Both were concerned with the salvation of those around them, wherever they happened to be. They were not controlled by borders in terms of when they shared. Many will share Christ for a season and then let down.

These young men shared at every opportunity and due to their obedience, were significant influencers for the kingdom of God. That they were called home before their time is difficult for those of us left behind, but not for them.

They lived their lives for Christ, and helped shape a culture. A culture we must embrace and carry on. These young men were vessels of change who cared more about others than themselves. They were both kind and gentle in how they treated those they encountered. They were Christ-like.

Neither were perfect, but both had insatiable appetites for their Savior. Both stood for Him when others fell. Both sought out opportunities to impact more lost people. Justin, who was a founding member of the "Brothers Under Christ" fraternity on the Oklahoma State campus, moved into the Beta house his senior year. Why?

He told me that he knew the Lord wanted him there so he could impact that environment for the Father. I have no doubt that he did.

That the enemy owns college campuses is no surprise to any of us. That one such young man who loved Jesus with all of his heart, with all of his soul, with all of his mind and with all of his strength would head into a fraternity where sin reigns, to try and impact that place for the King, says a great deal about his character.

Lesser men (like me, especially at his age) could not do this.

To camp out at the gates of hell to impact those who milled about at it's entrance, is no small calling.

I had the privilege of visiting with his family this week. They are hurting immensely. Justin's mother said to me through many tears, "I think BJ met him at the gates, don't you?"

Both young men marched to the gates of the enemy, the most dangerous place known, out of obedience to their Lord, and were found faithful. Both laid down their lives serving their Savior! Both were escorted to the gates of Heaven for an eternity of worship before the Lamb.

While they were here, their hearts were there. They tarried until they were called home and went willingly.

The ripple effect of their changed lives will continue to move generations and inspire obedience in a Christian subculture that is basking in apathy.

That is Revolution!

I want to be a part of that movement!

Well done, men of God, well done. Take on your new roles of worship in full view of His amazing Grace.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

a child at play, behind ministry

Back during my school days, when I ran cross country and track, the coaches I had always made us stretch out before and after races. I did what I was told, but I did not like it too much.

Somehow, to me, it usually seemed like a waste of time. I know other people who enjoy stretching. They even look forward to it. I don't, I tend to think it is least I did until recently.

While in Peru this summer, we did a great deal of walking. Especially in the mountain village of Huamachuco. As a result I lost weight.

This makes me happy. Since being home, I have tried to maintain this new body, by running. I have run or walked every day I have been back except for a couple. I have always preferred running, but will walk when necessary.

It has become necessary because I don't like to stretch.

It isn't that I don't understand the need to stretch, it's that I don't like it. I try to rush through it. The problem is, that as I rush through it, to get to the part I feel is more helpful, more enjoyable, I have caused myself unecessary suffering.

When I don't stretch enough, my calf muscle ties itself in a knot during my exertion. Sometimes it hurts so much I have to stop running and walk. I have managed to do this several times now.

That wouldn't be so bad except that it doesn't let go when I get remains knotted for a couple of days and makes me walk funny.

I had something of a rather obvious epiphany on Sunday while Deanna and I were completing our four mile circuit. Actually she spoke it into me.

What seemed completely obvious to her wasn't to me due to stubborness.

At the time it seemed brilliant. It would have been equally brilliant if I had written it down...I didn't have a pen on our walk.

Anyway, she said something like, "stretch now or pay later." From there we discussed how a lack of preparation produces inferior results...more painful results.

I am planning to spend more time stretching before running, from here on out.

This same principle applies to our walk with Christ. We routinely show up at church or Bible study without having done any preparation, yet expect to have remarkable worship experiences.

We must prepare our hearts. For many of us the push to even arrive on time on Sunday morning results in families frustrated with each other. Our attitudes upon arrival are anything but Christ-like.

We often end up enduring the service, rather than participating, or bringing our best to our King.

In both scenarios, we need to shift our priorities. The preparation time is necessary in order to reap the most significant experience.

While worship is not about us, and if we go in "me-focused" we will exit later, unfulfilled, the point is to bring God glory with all that we are. When we do this, we experience His pleasure in significant ways.

I'm going to start putting more emphasis on preparation! I don't like pain, and this is one way to avoid it!


Monday, August 18, 2008

My friend Sam in Huamachuco, Peru

Yesterday a young man who was very special to me was killed. Very recently, he sat in my living room and told me how God had moved in his heart and that he was to go to India to serve for 13 months.

He had just graduated from Oklahoma State and was thrilled to be serving the Lord in this way. The future before him was bright. His plan was well thought out and organized. He was certainly going to make a difference in this land!

During the summer of 2007 he had served under Lauren on her India team. He was a significant part of the leadership God had allowed me to raise up. He was one of the kindest souls and had a true gentleman's way about him.

Others were very responsive go him because he was so respectful.

I tried to recruit him for leadership for this past summer, but he knew God had called him back to India. His enthusiasm was contagious! I wanted to go with him. Just the kind of young man you want leading your teams.

He was heading home from a small group that he and a friend were leading, when he had a wreck on the motorcycle he was driving. He had been very excited about the bike. He bought it there in India after he arrived to get around the busy city.

He was killed instantly when he became trapped under a car. The passenger on his bike is in the hospital with a broken femur, pelvis and brain damage.

Both of these young men were involved with the same ministry. They had worked hard to raise enough support to spend this time in the land God had called them to.

Won't you please join me in praying for the young man who survived and both of their families?

It is so easy for bitterness to set in. We must fight against it for them.

There were plenty of people who thought he should not be doing this, but should begin the high paying job he was qualified for. He saw it from the Lord's perspective and knew he had to be there! We had talked of utilizing his leadership skills after his return.

I had multiple conversations with him. He was a sponge. He devoured conversation and discussion about the things of the Lord. Now, he is in His presence. The One he sought so diligently now embraces him.

His name is Justin Magers. He had a significant impact on the men of the OSU campus. He had a huge impact, with his servant heart and attitude, on the members of the India 2007 team. He had an enormous impact on me.

I praise God for his life. He spent it for his Savior!


Friday, August 15, 2008

a view to His majesty in Yungar, Peru

Having the privilege of spending much of the summer in the mountains of Peru is significant to me. I would prefer to be in the mountains over any other venue. Many love the beach...I love los montanas.

The intense beauty of His creation found me in awe of my God. I could not walk around these mountain villages without giving Him praise. Simultaneously, His Word washed through my mind. To paraphrase, if we do not give Him praise the rocks will cry out.

These rocks seemed close to doing so. The lostness of these people who live in His beauty and yet know Him not, is astounding. Many times the students wept and asked, how can these people say "no" to Christ when they dwell in a place where His creation is on such display?

They are right.

The truth is, we do so here as well. We live in a culture where many say they know Him, yet seem to care far less about His Lordship and desire above all, to be comfortable. Comfort equates to selfishness. Most all of us choose the comforts we can attain in our society over some element of suffering for Him.

When I returned from Peru this summer, I became aware of a half dozen young couples who are pursuing divorce. My heart breaks for each and every one. All of them are believers.

The things of this world and having our needs met in ways that are unique to us become more important that keeping Him the focus of our lives. All of us would do many things in a much different way if He were truly our Lord.

The way we spend our money and our time would reflect His glory instead of self indulgence. I see so many who refuse to ever involve themselves in any form of missions here or overseas, yet go on extravagant vacations, believing they are owed such things.

I have nothing against vacations. My concern is that we have become blind to the things God calls us to do and ignore the lost an dying of this world while maintaining higher and higher levels of personal comfort.

It comes down to priorities. There is far more fulfillment in seeking and serving our Creator than there will ever be in spending more money or time on things we find necessary that contribute nothing to the Salvation of he lost.

We exist for His glory! We live like our glory was at stake and that we may die tomorrow, so we've gotta squeeze all we can materially out of life.

We deserve nothing but death for who we are and what we have done. Yet by His grace we live. Our salvation is a gift from Him. He died that we might have life.

Our response is to spit in His face, caring less about his sacrifice while sacrificing to spend more on things that will be consumed in His fire upon that Day.

When will we open our eyes to what our focus needs to be? When will we walk out our obedience to the King of Kings? We will have to give account for these things in our lives. We need to begin to live like that day is coming. We need to begin to love.

We cannot buy our way into His presence.

Those observing Christianity in the US from the outside would believe that a relationship with God is about spending extravagant sums of money on beautiful buildings that we call church, coming there to meet together in superficial emptiness, having no impact on the community around us, and scarcely meeting the needs of anyone along the way.

Then we wonder why others don't want what we have?

Many of us walk around in anger or bitterness, forgetting that the Word compels us not to allow such a seed to take root. We have learned that our own needs supersede any other happening around us. We will meet the need of another after we have gotten what we deserve. Since none of us ever seem to get what we deserve (from our own point of view) we do nothing to meet the needs of others.

The enemy has gained such a great victory while we relish our comfort and selfishness or the pursuit of the same.

Who cares?

Most of us are too busy to.

What are we busy doing? Little about meeting the needs of others, in love.

When do we awake from this sleep of lethargy and hypocrisy?

Time is running out.

It's time to put Him first!


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Pastor Tito and I "communicating"

Deanna and I will be interviewed live on WAFG radio (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla) tonight from 8-9pm, CT. Anyone interested in listening in can go to their website, and click on the "listen live" button. This radio station is an arm of Coral Ridge Ministries.

I thought I would post our upcoming schedule for those who are faithful in praying for us.

August 14 Radio Interview Live, WAFG Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. 8-9pm CT
August 23 Sweet Water Baptist Church Youth Rally, Neosho, Mo
September 7 Riverview Baptist Church, Bixby, Ok
September 13-14 Woodlands Community Church Youth Revival, Houston, Tx
September 17 Radio Interview Live, WBCL Ft. Wayne, In. 8:30-9am, CT
September 30 Okalahoma Baptist University, Shawnee, Ok
October 1 "Rain Down" 62 church youth gathering, Douglas, Ga
October 12 GracePointe Church, Denton, Tx
October 25 Whitney's wedding
November 7-9 "iGo" Missions Conference, hosted by Parkview Baptist, Tulsa, Ok

My laptop is only a few months old and I am very thankful to have it. However, it came with a character flaw.

I can be typing along doing just fine and will suddenly realize that the cursor has jumped and inserted itself somewhere it is not supposed to be. What I have been typing with great clarity and tremendous humor suddenly won't make any sense at all. (I think I can blame a great deal on this issue).

If I am typing with proper technique, I catch it immidiately. You know, if you watch the screen while you type, you tend to notice these things.

However, if you type like I do (sometimes), where you start watching your fingers fly and get entranced at the sheer speed and flawless grace with which you move about the keyboard, never hitting the wrong letter (right!) having a jumping cursor can reduce you to a pile of humiliated frustration with an attitude problem.

Especially, on this blog page. The worst is when I am writing and suddenly my cursor has jumped into my picture code. It is impossilbe to tell where it left home and went rogue. You see, picture code on a blog site has 6 to 8 lines of code. Letters, symbols, numbers etc. that make absolutley no sense to the uneducated in computer languages (like me).

I have wondered what would happen if I just ignored this problem and posted it as it comes matter what. Then I realized I have probably done that frequently and that even if I haven't, I will claim that I have, cause it can be used to explain a really had hair in that picture, but the computer malfunctioned and that is just how it turned out...and oh, if you had read what was in my head instead of what ended up on the page, you would have been greatly moved, promise.

Whether or not I am inadvertently doing something to cause the cursor to jump I honestly don't know. I don't think I just happens.

At any rate, (and you were waiting for the tie in) I seem to have the same problem in my head that I do on my computer. I don't have a cursor in my head, but I do have this problem with my train of thought arbitrarily leaping to where it isn't supposed to be.

I will be mid sentence in a serious conversation, and will suddenly and completely lose not only where I was headed, but also where I came from.

I have been trying to figure out if I can blame this on Dell or not, but so far, I find that I am not that creative.

Before you think it, this is not because I am old. I have had this problem as long as I can remember.

I find that I, like most humans, am easily distracted. Things I'd like to be able to blame on Dell or Mac or even God, are really my own issues. I spend too much time thinking on things that do not come from above. Ultimately, this ends in distractions that are somewhat predictable.

If I would keep my mind on the things of the Lord, His Word, His character, His precepts, His Glory, His will, I would have far fewer distractions enter my field of vision.

I know I am not the only user to log on to a computer with a jumping cursor.

It takes work. It takes discipline. It requires that I seek Him and not my own desires. Selfishness is destroying families across our nation.

Sooo, I am gonna go ahead and publish this knowing that I have work to do. Someday I may get a computer with a cursor that functions properly. Until then, I will "take every thought captive" and surrender it to Him.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My very good friend Laura, showing the joy of the Lord

My house is soooo quiet in the morning. As a matter of fact, it is quiet most of the time now.

While I was in Peru, Lauren moved into her own place with some friends. I am both excited for and proud of her. This begins a new era in her life.

It seems like forever since Whitney has lived with us. She is doing very well in the Denton, Tx area.

A couple of years ago, a friend gave me a Rob Bell Nooma video on "loss." In it, he talks of the devastation and life change that it brings. In the background, music is playing.

When I awoke this morning, that music was playing within me. I am not sure why. I haven't watched or thought about that video in a long time.

While in South America, there was never quiet for long, at any given time. I loved my team of students, and it changes you when you see them engage fully for the Lord. That is a vision that never leaves your head. Seeing them minister to thousands of people and knowing the King of Kings has called them there to do so is a most humbling experience.

It's interesting, my memories of this are usually set to music as well.

Music has a way of transporting us to remembrance. Most of us can remember certain songs that were special in the past and when we randomly hear them today, we are flooded with things that bring a smile to our faces.

The quiet I awoke to this morning, was far too melancholy. The background of that Nooma video music was unwelcome. It did not bring smiles, rather a foreboding sense of being alone.

Of course, I am not alone! I have my lovely bride here with me. I missed her so much this past summer. I could not wait to see her again! This morning, when my alarm went off, and I sat up, she encouraged me to lay back down for a bit, and she began to scratch my back.

Anyone who knows me, knows that scratching my back renders me paralyzed. It calms me. I am virtually incapable of movement as the those fingers bring screams of jubilation from every skin cell they encounter. I laid back down...and the music began.

While I was away, I could not wait to return to my wife, and share in the deafening quiet. I am glad to be back with her! I just didn't remember the quiet being so unfriendly.

We've certainly reached that place where our home has emptied itself of the din of offspring.

There are times we need quiet and it is good.

I just happen to find myself wondering what to do with it just now.

It works very well for my time with the Lord. I want it to be silent at these times. I just find myself not wanting the quiet to be so...well, loud.

I'm thankful the Olympics are on pretty much all the time. It's hard to get enough of watching Michael Phelps win another Gold! His smile is incredible! The tears his mother and sisters spill in an already humid arena, are endearing.

I like that story.

I wonder how the quiet will seem to them, when they return.

My son competed in swimming. He never won gold, but he walks streets made of it.

I can hear the constant whir of the ceiling fan, traffic is starting increase its demands outside. Another jet is descending overhead, headed to the Tulsa airport.

I think I'll get up and make some noise. It's just too quiet.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Watching my team in Huamachuco

I love the Olympics! From the time I was a little boy, I loved watching and even trying to emulate the events in them.

When I was a freshman in high school, I ran cross country. The Lord gifted me with a large lung capacity and I was a prolific runner. I was privileged to set many records back then and even to win a state event.

During that time, I began to hear people talking to my parents about Olympic possibilities.

Injury would prevent any of that from ever being taken seriously.

During my college years, some friends and I went to Lake Placid, NY for Spring Break. We were there the week after the Olympics. I had sat in the student union on my campus and watched team USA beat the Russians in Hockey..."do you believe in miracles, Yes!...(Al Michaels).

What an amazing time that was as we watched relative unknowns in their field go up against professional players from the then Soviet Union.

I was there to ski, and I was able to ski the Olympic downhill course. I did not do it well, and a tremendous respect for those athletes, grew within me.

A few years later, I would meet and marry Deanna. As we got to know each other, we discovered we were both in Lake Placid, NY at the same time. We did not meet or see each other, but were amazed at how small the world suddenly seemed.

Each Olympics that have come and gone since then, bring feelings out in me that are well...competitive! I tend to be hyper competitive. I stay away from competition as much as I can, as that tends to bring out the worst in me.

I easily get caught up in any event I happen to compete in, and it takes no time for the competitive juices begin to stir, boil and overflow.

This did not serve me well when my children were young and played soccer or t-ball. I fear I was that screaming parent on the sidelines, that no child wanted to claim.

Today, I don't participate in athletics when I am around students. I have embarrassed myself on more than one occasion.

While we were in Ecuador, after our Peru missions experience concluded this summer, my team asked me multiple times to play soccer with them. I finally relented, and played. I had a great time with them. However, a couple of them came home bruised from my zealousness (I stepped on feet and things like I didn't hit anyone).

With the Olympics playing on my tv at home, those competitive feelings return in earnest! I am probably addicted to each an every event that I can see! I want to compete!

Somehow, I believe I helped the "fantastic four" win their swimming relay last night as I screamed at them in their come from behind victory over the 'all too mouthy, French."

I am way too competitive!

I am learning to take that competitive spirit and transfer it to the lost of our world. The energy that I would otherwise waste on competitions that don't help anyone, I am learning to invest in helping those who do not know Christ.

My competition is the enemy of all know who.

The victory is already won by our Lord and Savior, Jesus! However, there remain large numbers of people who have not heard about Him, and my role is help to bring Truth to them, that the Lord may snatch them from the fire in which the enemy wants to consume them.

It is not an Olympic event, and it won't bring fame and fortune, but it will bring joy to each person who come to know Him!

There is lots of room on His team. Won't you join me?


Friday, August 08, 2008

All 22 of us at Casa Alianza in Guayaquil, Ecuador at the end of our journey

I learned a good deal more about authority this summer. God's authority structure is set up for our "direction and protection" a friend of mine frequently teaches.

He is right. When the Lord raises up authority in our lives and we rebel against it, we are headed for trouble. Our rebellion is sometimes significant and other times quiet and internal. Regardless, it is something that will end in difficulty if we do not yield.

The Word of God teaches us that "all authority" is God's authority (Romans 13). It goes on to tell us that when we rebel against authority we are rebelling against God.

This is a teaching we do not like. It is difficult for us to accept that those who have evil intent or do not regard the things of God as important as authorities in our lives. We struggle to believe that God would set them over us for any reason.

It is far too easy to rebel against those who are not godly.

We find ourselves believing we are being Christlike when we work against the ungodly people in our lives who have been set over us.

According to Scripture, this simply is not true. We must yield to that authority. We can appeal to them when we are in disagreement, but working against is not pleasing to the Lord.

I work with many students who have parents that are unbelievers and this struggle routinely plays out in their lives. It is a very difficult thing for them. Giving counsel and telling them they still need to submit is unpopular advice.

However, time after time I have seen their parents turn around and follow the heart of God when their child who didn't agree with their parent, submitted to them.

With all of the corruption in our world, this idea seems ridiculous. However, it remains true. When we follow the authority set over us we find His favor. Certainly, when that authority is all about evil, there are steps we need to take to appeal, and seek His intervention. Blatant disregard or disrespect for them will do more harm to the Lord and His ways than submission.

We can all devise scenarios where this truth seems completely dated and foolish. Following the heart of our Savior never is. Following what His Word teaches us, will bring Him glory...even when we cannot see how.

I can assure you that the Name of Jesus and the human authority He raises on the mission field or anywhere else, must be submitted to by the enemy. We just are not always sure what that means.

In the book of Numbers, Moses sister and brother get weary of Moses being "God's chosen one." They decide they should be in charge and try to usurp control. It ends badly for them until they resubmit to God.

A few chapters later, other Israelites do likewise. They are destroyed by the earth swallowing them or by plagues. Moses authority remains constant. God remains in control.

When God puts His authority in us and we do not stand up and lead as He would have us to, people suffer.

When God's authority is on those we do not like and we fail to follow, we suffer and bring those who agree with us, down.

Following God, is following His authority.

Philippians says of Jesus, ..."he humbled himself and became obedient in death- even death on a cross! Therefore, God exalted Him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father."

Every living being will bow down to Him! Every living being will confess that He is Lord, whether He is Lord of their lives or not!

He wins!

Ours is to follow Him in obedience. We can do this.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

BJ stood between these same two women, at this same spot in 2005. The three of them also served here together in 2004. Pacasmayo, Peru with Suzanne and Laura!

I cannot tell you how great a privilege it was to serve with these two women this year. 2004 was the first year for all three of them to serve with Awe Star. Since then, Suzanne has served every year, and Laura has served each year but one.

The last two years, Laura has served side by side with me. This year, both women were selected as leaders on my team and did a great job.

Last year, standing in this spot with Laura was of course bittersweet. This year, being here with both of them was emotional for all three of us. These two women are two of the three people from BJ's teams who served together both years. The third was my friend David Post who led the teams and now serves as a full time missionary in South Asia.

You do not forget the ones who have impacted your life in significant ways. God allows us brief moments of significance with those who will empty themselves into us.

These two women spilled all they had into the young women of our team this year and I am very proud of them. I cannot imagine going to the field without them or women like them.

We need to take time to thank the people in our lives who have poured into us relentlessly, for seasons past. They may not be nearby now, but with a little effort they can be found, and I know they need your encouragement.

Recently, I heard from a couple of students from the past who have done just that in my own life. The joy it brings and the satisfaction derived from a few simple words is amazingly overwhelming.

Too often we walk through life feeling alone and when people take the time to connect with us and even instill in us a depth in Christ we would not otherwise have, we need to let them know how much we value them. Their efforts to serve Jesus were never designed to get our feedback. That makes it all the more encouraging when they do hear.

The Lord often uses those moments at unexpected times in their own lives, when they are discouraged, or in need of someone to love them. Please do not be shy about doing so. For the receiver, it will be well worth your effort.

Suzanne and Laura are such a blessing in my own life because they are very real people who struggle in life and still point others towards Jesus. I know He has recognized their efforts, and I know others have as well.

When real people who suffer and struggle in life continue to seek Christ, it impacts those around them.

Thank you Suzanne and Laura for being faithful to our Savior! I love you both!


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

My summer partner, Kristen in a small village called Yungar. She got married last weekend!

This summer, Kristen, my partner and a recent graduate from Oklahoma State as a Journalism major, wrote all of the updates (save 2) on the Awe Star website for the Peru team.

This was a significant blessing to me, and one I did not think about before the summer. She did very naturally, what I have to labor over to accomplish.

The way the Lord gifts people is an amazing thing. Certainly writing is a skill that can be developed over time, but if there isn't a raw ability in there somewhere, it won't be enjoyable to read and can be agony for the author.

I must then confess, that being out of the routine of writing frequently, finds me feeling largely, out of sync. What to say and how to say it, seems to evade me.

I checked in on prayforbj occasionally while I was away, and was greatly blessed at the contributions by Deanna and Brad. They really did a nice job, and I found myself enjoying the seemingly effortless flow of thoughts they ascribed here.

This morning, as I sit before a blank screen, I feel I should have so much to pour out, so much to share. In fact I do, but I cannot seem to unstick the flow that is bottlenecked somewhere between my thoughts and my fingers. Honestly, it is a bit frustrating.

I know it will come in time, and I need not to force it.

I am quite amazed at how very different each of the last three summers has been. Each team has had a different personality. The dynamics on each have functioned in very different ways. The goal of each was to bring Glory to God, but that is not always accomplished as we would like, or in the same fashion.

I find myself thinking a great deal about this last summer...processing, over and over again. To be sure, processing is important. Overthinking is a pitfall of processing, and I think I have gotten a bit 'out of bounds' in the course of this procedure.

God was brought glory this summer. His faithful ones were active in bringing thousands to Him. I am so very thankful to have seen this happen, to have been a part of it. Our God is truly amazing.

I struggle though to tell our story. I wish that you could hear from the students themselves.

Much of my time this summer was spent in warfare against the enemy, trying to assure that our team was free to do what they had come to do. I did not expect it. I did not choose it. I was compelled to do so, as without it, my team could not have moved forward. (The result left me exhausted much of the time. Being exhausted and yet responsible for a team of 22 brings about challenges...ones I did not always overcome with the joy of the Lord.)

I would like to think that I have always been faithful in this arena, but I know better. My eyes were opened significantly to what the Word calls "spiritual forces of evil."

These battles are raging around us, but somehow we have been lulled to sleep, ignorance or indifference by our fleshly pursuits.

To speak of these battles in detail would make most, very uncomfortable...yet they are such and integral part of my experience this summer, that I am left wondering how to convey them, and keep the focus where it needs to be.

It needs now and always to be on Jesus.

"...there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12

Suffice it to say, that I am most thankful for those of you the Lord kept in the trenches praying on our behalf this summer. I do not like to think about what may have occurred had you not been faithful.

The level of the battle has increased significantly this summer over previous ones. I do not know if that is an indicator for the future, but I do know now more than ever, we must be faithful to our King!


Monday, August 04, 2008

This boy enjoyed his interaction with our team

While in Peru, we were scheduled to minister in Huamachuco, a mountain village of around 5,000 people. It is situated above 10,000 feet. We had secured bus tickets for the day after a national strike, called a "Paro."

Unfortunately, the paro was not over on the day we were to leave. Men guarded bridges with axes and other tools of convenience. When travelers approached who wanted to pass, they would shout about the inequities of life in their country and present a hostile stance.

Everything shut down for the paro. Schools, businesses, etc., all were closed. We were in the city of Trujillo at the time, and all seemed peaceful. My partner Kristen and I got out that day to take care of some business. We saw some protesters organizing to demonstrate in front of government buildings, but they were doing so peacefully. The city seemed largely unaffected. We were told these things are often more serious in less sparsely populated areas.

An ambulance approached one of these bridges guarded by men with axes where boulders had been strewn across the street. It was carrying a pregnant woman from the village we were to head to, down to the city we were in. She was pregnant and needed medical intervention for delivery.

The men would not let her pass. They chanted and shouted more angrily at the idea of allowing her to receive what she so desperately needed.

These men prevailed, the ambulance turned around.

This mother-to-be and her child both perished.

We were deeply saddened that such an event would occur.

This strike would last days longer than it was supposed to. Our team battled significant spiritual warfare during this time. We were also unable to leave for three or four days past our intended departure date.

When we finally arrived, and as the team was settling in, I took our leadership team for a walk through the village. We needed to know the lay of the land to assist in finding ministry sites.

The people were very cold and hard hearted. As we walked, and saw the beauty God had created, I felt a tremendous sense of those who were deeply lost, and following the lies of the enemy.

We returned to the team. I explained what we had encountered. I told them that I was concerned for them. This team had seen hundreds of people surrender to Christ by this point, and I feared they would not handle the potential rejection of this community well.

I asked them to go out and prayer walk in teams. I told them that if we needed the Lord's favor to overcome the hard heartedness of the people.

To be honest, I was not certain how seriously they would take this time. I only knew without the Lord's blessing, these would be a difficult few days at this high altitude.

The team reconvened after their time in prayer. We headed to the Plaza de Armas of this town. It was ornate, with trees and shrubs trimmed into topiaries. The people were beautiful and dressed in bright colors.

As we prepared to share the Gospel, a significant crowd assembled. In a town of a few thousand people, well over a thousand of them gathered around us. We were engulfed by them.

The depths of their hunger was evident on their faces.

At the conclusion of the drama we presented, the students went out in their ministry teams. The harvest far surpassed our expectations!

Hundreds and hundreds of people came to Christ. They asked how soon the church we were there to plant would start. Entire families were giving their lives to Jesus! In my years of ministry, this was one of the most significant responses to the Gospel I have ever seen.

Day after day, we had a similar response in Huamachuco. Everyday we would be asked by the villagers how soon the church would begin and where would it be? They hunger for Truth had only intensified after coming to Christ!

Tito, our national pastor wore a large grin while we were there. He is a large man and this altitude was hard on him, yet seeing the response of this people, affirmed how the Lord had moved in his own heart. He had brought us to this village out of obedience, and the Lord had moved mightily. He is assembling the team to begin a church there, now. Tito's enthusiasm is contagious!

We reminded our team after this first ministry site, how the power of God had been on display! To see these kinds of numbers come, in a town that was so cold and stoic, was no small thing. I believe this team had moved the heart of God during their prayer walk.

His power is undeniable! We saw Him move in the lives of people in ways I had never seen before.

It is easy in this life to believe that you have seen it all, and that God's ability to move is largely hampered by mans selfishness. Regardless of any validity to that, He moves as He wishes in response to the prayers of His own.

Don't take your prayer time lightly!

Our team did not, after this experience! We learned a great deal about our Lord and His desire to love us this summer. It is truly unfathomable, that He loves us as much as He does!

We are a blessed people, if we seek Him and surrender before Him.